3 May 2013, by gj
Carrots poking through much earlier.
Pretty much any vegetable gardener will tell you that it takes forever for carrot seeds to sprout. Parsnips take even longer.
Is it coincidence that these, two of the tiniest seeds of edible plants, are the slowest to poke through the soil?
Check out this chart prepared by Heirloom Seeds:
Click here to view the chart.
If you take a look at the best temperatures for germination, you will notice part of the problem.
Carrot seeds are planted early in the spring, long before the soil temperatures reach 75F. Parsnips can germinate at a little cooler soil temperature, but 70F is still much warmer than what the normal planting conditions are.
This year we started basil seeds, which are about the same size as carrots, indoors. They pushed through the soil much faster than they did when they were direct sown. Of course, they were in warmer soil and with even amounts of moisture.
That is the key with all seeds, but especially those that are in cooler soil than what is optimum for growing. And here I always thought it was the small size of the seed that was the connecting factor.
So what can you do? Carrots really don’t like to be transplanted, so starting them indoors is not the answer.
Part of the solution we looked at before, cloching. This simple method of covering the seeded area with plastic will help warm the soil and speed up germination. It also helps hold in moisture, with is the second factor and probably the more important one.
Give your direct sown seeds this kind of attention.
There’s an even easier way to cloche to improve seed germination times. Since you are only covering the seed until you begin to see green leaves, you can just lay the plastic on the ground and simply use some rocks or anything heavy to keep it from blowing away. Clamps will hold it on a raised bed.
And you don’t need to buy fancy plastic. The drop cloth kind you can get wherever house paint is sold works fine.
If for some reason you can’t cloche, at the very least keep those seeds moist until they poke through.
Cloched peas sprouted faster than uncloched.
Our carrots and other early veggies are about a week ahead this year, it would have been more if we thought to cover them earlier.
Now you’ve just learned what it took us 30 years to figure out.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season
30 April 2013, by gj
It’s so wonderful to finally have a chance to spend some quality time with the gardens again. The weather has been dry but just right temperature-wise to get a healthy bit done the last 2 weeks.
You can almost taste them now.
The experimental onions are coming along nicely. I’m not sure they will grow bigger bulbs, but at the very least we are almost ready to snip a few greens.
Absent when photo was taken: Peppers and Eggplants.
The tomatoes, peppers and eggplant in the mini-greenhouse are taking up so much room, even after we have given some away, and getting so big that they will need to head out to the garden soon. Another experiment in the works is cloching a bed to warm it for the tomatoes. Cross your fingers Dear Journal.
I mean that figuratively of course.
All totaled so far we have about 12 ft. of peas, about 6 each broccoli, cauliflower, red and green cabbage, a handful of collards, kale, kohlrabi, 3 dozen onions plus the green onions, 2 Brussels sprouts, I forget how much elephant garlic, 2 pots of transplanted sunchokes and 8 ft. of fava beans growing. Just sprouting are beets, chard, and sorrel. Not to mention the blueberries, horseradish, the newly planted blackberries, the overgrown raspberries, oh! oh! oh! and this:
Let there be plums.
A dozen fruit trees to be grown the espalier method, well, that’s the plan anyway. And then there’s the asparagus, the expanded strawberry bed and oh yeah, the experimental dry beans under cloche.
Well, if you need more details Dear Journal, just check with Clipboard.
She gets right out into the garden with me.
Yes, she is wearing Polka-dots.
More entries in Dear Journal.
Categories: addiction, dear journal
28 April 2013, by gj
There are a number of veggies that don’t care to be transplanted and are best sown directly into the garden. These would include the root crops like parsnips and carrots, as well as all the beans and peas. Squash plants, cucumbers and melons are not fond of it, but it can be done.
Basil started indoors.
When you start seeds indoors, you have control over the conditions. How much heat and water they receive is up to you.
With direct sown seeds, it’s all in Mother Nature’s hands.
Or is it?
Here they come.
The two things you can control, at least to some extent, are moisture and heat.
Keeping your seeds moist until they poke through the soil is very important. Sure, sometimes spring rains and snows do it for you. When they don’t, it’s up to you to give them a light watering every day until you see the green. Mulching between rows can help hold that moisture longer.
A bit crooked, but it works.
Even though some seeds can take the cold, carrots, peas and parsnips for example, you will still get a faster germination if you can keep them a little warmer. For rows of seeds, a simple cover can be made by bending pvc pipes and covering with clear plastic. This is known as a ‘low tunnel’ and works great. Empty canning jars or clear soda bottles make mini cloches for smaller plantings.
Likewise, plastic can easily be clamped onto a raised bed for a temporary cloche.
Jump-started watermelon from 2012.
Not only will these techniques help you speed up your germination times, they can also give you a jump start on your season, or help towards the end of the year to keep frost off your plants.
If your growing season is at all limited, extending the time you have is worth its weight in produce.
Here’s more info on extending the growing season.
Categories: all about seeds, extending the season, gardening, how to grow
27 April 2013, by gj
If you look on the back of most seed packets they will tell you and sometimes even provide you with a visual of how deep to plant that seed.
But what if you are relatively new to gardening and you save your own, or are given, saved seeds?
It’s easy, actually, just take a minute to think about it.
Small seeds: Those itty bitty ones like carrots, cabbage, basil and mint. Plant these about 1/4 inch deep. Some gardeners just scatter them about, then brush with their hands to lightly cover with soil. Watering then gets them down about as much as you need.
Medium seeds: Cantaloupe and cucumber seeds, and others about the same size, should be planted about 1/2 inch into the soil. for these just make a little row with your fingertip, plant and cover.
Larger seeds: Peas and beans have seeds even a toddler can easily handle. Plant these 1 inch or so deep. We use a trowel or dowel to make a row, or stick a finger into the soil about the first knuckle deep if we are only planting a few seeds.
Now then, do you see a pattern? The larger the seed, the deeper it goes in.
My Dad told me once “Plant your seeds twice as deep as the size of the seed.”
My brain, off on a tangent as it is so often prone to do, interpreted that as ‘Half the distance to the goal.’
Okay, I admit it’s odd my brain would choose a sports analogy.
But if the goal is how deep to plant the seed, then the size of the seed is half the distance.
Easy to remember, and you never need to read a seed packet again.
Well, I guess you do if you want to know whether that bean is a pole or bush type; or if your cabbage seed is early or late season variety.
At least you can skip over the seed planting stuff and get right to what you need to know.
There you go, now you have more time to play in the garden.
Categories: all about seeds, how to grow
26 April 2013, by gj
It is said that in Pennsylvania there are four seasons:
This spring certainly seemed to agree.
But I found out recently there is a marking of springtime that I was not aware of.
I had stopped in the local grocery very early in the morning to pick something up for work. They had their refrigerated produce section completely emptied out.
When I asked one of the staff what had happened, she told me that “They do this every year, in the spring. A guy from ‘main’ comes out and sets everything up. You know, the weather’s getting warm, everyone’s going to want watermelon.”
You got to love marketing.
So I stopped back later and sure enough they were done.
Look how that produce just leans towards you, begging you to choose it. See how conveniently the bags are placed? Look how bright everything is!
Then I noticed something. That produce is similar in color to the red and orange plastic coolers above, and about as uniform in size. My produce isn’t that bright and it certainly doesn’t look all the same like that.
Did you know that groceries have a higher markup on produce than anything else?
That’s why most stores have the produce department right by the main entrance.
Don’t get taken by their ploys:
Eat real food.
Grow what you can.
Learn to preserve food.
Choose non-GMO and organic what you can afford.
Here’s a great link to the Certified Non-GMO Project with lists of foods that have been certified to be GMO free.
And here’s a cute video in case you need a little more motivation.
Oh yeah, and there is one more sign of spring:
Categories: GMO's, you are what you eat
23 April 2013, by gj
Gardenesia is a member of the CRS Group of common disorders, and because the symptoms are masked as simple errors or mistakes, it often goes undiagnosed. Although this disorder is not fatal, if not treated promptly it can spread rapidly.
Some of the symptoms include accidental duplications of actions,
the placing of items in unusual places,
inability to recollect previous behaviors and actions,
and the victim may even seem surprised by the consequences of their own behavior.
Gardenesiacts can be treated by encouraging them to utilize simple items such as a calender, notebook and pen.
In severe cases, blogging is recommended.
Categories: addiction, confessions
21 April 2013, by gj
It was too cold to get much work done in the garden yesterday, but a good day to clean out the canning shelves and freezer.
First I happened upon the last jar of Red Onion Marmalade, whoa! I thought it was all gone.
Of course, this being nigh on a special occasion, I had to make something good enough to go with it.
Next I found in the freezer enough small bags of berries left to make a Four Berry Jam. I slightly altered the recipe, and just put together 4 cups total of berries, and added 1/4 cup lemon juice for good measure.
It wasn’t long before a Rhubarb Pie was in the oven and a pot of chili, using leftover tomatoes, onions and peppers from the freezer, was on the stove.
Now we’re getting somewhere! The house is warmed up and it smells wonderful.
Then a Facebook friend posted a link for making cornbread in a waffle iron, and topping it with chili.
But no waffle iron.
“Instead of a waffle, why not a pancake?” I thought.
“Instead of a pancake, why not a crepe?” my brain answered.
So I doctored a recipe on the bag of cornmeal and this is what it turned into:
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup corn meal
1/2 tsp. salt
Mix these together, set aside.
Beat 2 large eggs.
Add about 1 1/2 cups of water, or more, to make a very thin batter. Note that the cornmeal will settle to the bottom, so stir before pouring. It also gets thicker as it sits, so add more water if need be.
Grease a hot skillet. Add enough batter to make a crepe the size you want.
The first one was too thick, but tasted good, so I kept going. The second one was too thin and ripped.
So far the dog was happy.
For the third one, I actually swirled the pan about to help spread the batter thin.
Flip when it’s all bubbly, then remove from heat and let cool just enough to handle.
Stuff with chili. If desired, top with salsa.
In the picture is a wonderful dark red cherry fiery chili that was a gift from the kids.
So yesterday went from too cold to chili.
Yeah, some days are just like that.
20 April 2013, by gj
As long as there is no frost or freeze, tomatoes can take temperatures down into the 30′s. That being said, it doesn’t mean they will like it.
They prefer not to go below 50, so we were keeping this in mind as we were monitoring the mini greenhouse to watch for when we could begin using it, and when we need to vent it.
We used a high/low thermometer which records not only the current temperature (left bottom) but also what the extremes were for the previous 24 hours (right bottom).
On a partly sunny day the temperatures inside can get warm enough that even with cold nights they stay close to 50F.
So when the kitchen seedling area began to look like a jungle, and the overnight inside temperatures were staying well into the 40′s, we moved the largest of the tomatoes and peppers into their new home.
That was two weeks ago now and the plants are thriving. We did bring them inside once just to check on them and give them a good watering.
Tomorrow the overnight low is supposed to drop into the 20′s. Hmmm.
We may bring them indoors, depending on what the inside temperature is at sunset. If it’s a sunny day, we should be okay.
Which would be good, because soon they will have company.
Here’s how we built the mini greenhouse.
Categories: extending the season
19 April 2013, by gj
The weather has finally started to warm up here in the northeast and things are turning green. Woohoo!
The experimental fall planted onions look happy enough. These were onions from last season that did not get very big, it will be interesting to see how they do.
The seeds have come up and are doing so well that many of them were moved to the mini-greenhouse to make room.
We’ve been monitoring the temperatures in there closely, and will give you some more details this weekend.
I don’t know Dear Journal, but 40 pounds of potatoes seems like an awful lot to me. At a conservative return rate of 6 to 1, we could end up needing to build an addition on the house just to store them.
Just kidding, but we will be busy dehydrating and canning!
This ‘black gold’ was discovered at the local Farm & Garden. We have used it before with great success, so have been adding this to every bed as we plant.
Can you have too many fruit trees? We hope to never find out the answer. These are ‘bush’ cherries, apricot and an apple to add to our other apples, pears, almond, plum and peaches.
And just in case that’s not enough fruit…
Categories: dear journal
16 April 2013, by gj
We did look at how to go about planting asparagus last month, but wanted to add a little more detail.
Digging the furrows.
If you buy crowns, they will be ‘dormant’ when they arrive. This means they are basically asleep. The first time we got some we thought they were dead. As a doornail.
We also learned some interesting additional details from our favorite seed catalog printed by Johnny’s Select Seeds. They gave me permission to reprint their info, as long as I give them credit. They are so nice!
Placing the crowns.
Anyway, here’s some of what they have to say that wasn’t mentioned before:
- Plant 8-14″ apart, closer spacing will cause more slender spears.
- Use caution when cultivating any weeds. If you damage the crowns they become more susceptible to disease.
- Irrigate regularly during the growing season.
- Apply hay, straw or leaf mulch when the weather gets hot, to help control weeds and retain moisture.
- Asparagus is a heavy feeder. Apply compost or aged manure both in the spring and again in the fall.
- You can store your spears upright at 36 degrees F and 95-100% humidity for up two weeks.
- With the proper care, an asparagus bed can thrive for 15 years or more.
So now there you go, you have all the info you need to grow some awesome asparagus.
Categories: asparagus, how to grow